- Vanmarcke rides a 58cm R3, a 13cm stem and 175mm cranks. The Kortrijk native is in his element during the classics. Photo: Nick Legan
- Geoff Brown gives Vanmarcke's R3 Mud a bolt check. The Canadian wrench was all smiles thanks to the fine weather but was ready for a sloppy Roubaix on Sunday. Photo: Nick Legan
- Sep Vanmarcke is one of Garmin's protected riders at the classics, impressive for a 23 year old. Photo: Nick Legan
- The SL fork crown on the R3 Mud is wider, moving the blades outboard. Head mechanic Geoff Brown noted that you can change brake pads without squeezing the caliper (unlike you must do on most forks). Wheelbase is also slightly increased on the R3 Mud. Photo: Nick Legan
- Another view of the widened fork crown on the R3 Mud fork. Photo: Nick Legan
- Sep Vanmarcke's Cervélo R3 Mud has plenty of clearance for big tires and sloppy roads. The brake bridge is higher (notice the brake pads at the bottom of the adjustment slot) and the seatstays are splayed for more room. Photo: Nick Legan
- An arsenal of Cervélos for Scheldeprijs and Roubaix were being tuned by Garmin's team mechanics, Alex Banyay and Geoff Brown, the day we stopped by. Photo: Nick Legan
- Garmin mechanics had their Roubaix wheels stacked and ready to go in the basement of the team hotel. Photo: Nick Legan
- Garmin will be aboard Mavic M40 carbon tubulars with French handmade 27mm tubulars. They measured 28.5mm on our calipers. Day of the race, the team will forego sealant and pump the tires to between 65 and 72.5 psi. Photo: Nick Legan
- Tyler Farrar's R3 was outfitted with Mavic M80 wheels and Rotor's oval chainrings for Scheldeprijs. Photo: Nick Legan
- Half of Garmin's classics squad is now using Rotor's oval chainrings, like these time trial versions on Tyler Farrar's R3. Photo: Nick Legan
Cervélo’s R3 is something of a king of the cobbles. In fact, a rider aboard an R-series bike has been on every Paris-Roubaix podium since its debut in 2006. That includes three wins on the bike thanks to Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O’Grady and Johan Vansummeren.
Damon Rinard is Cervélo’s senior advanced research and design engineer. He explained why some riders, including Sep Vanmarcke, use the bike in races before Roubaix:
“The Cervélo R3 Mud frames we supplied to the [Garmin-Barracudea] team are stock R3s except for a few millimeters here and there, all for tire clearance. Technically, a stock R3 would work in dry conditions, but in case of rain we want a little extra clearance between tire and frame (hence the “Mud” moniker – ed.). Since weather is fairly uncertain until a few days before, the team chooses to ride the Muds in the weeks prior so they’re on familiar bikes in case race day turns out to be wet.”
Each of the special Mud frames is handmade in Toronto at Vroomen.White.Design by Robert Pike, one of Cervélo’s design engineers. Pike supplied Garmin with similarly altered R3’s last year. The previous version of the R3 also got this treatment in 2010 and in 2009 Cervélo tweaked its RS model, now out of production.
The front triangles are entirely stock. Changes are made to fork and rear chainstays to increase tire clearance in case of bad weather conditions.
The Mud fork has the same axle-to-crown length, but the brake hole is positioned higher on the crown to keep the caliper from clogging. The “crotch” of the fork, the underside of the crown, is also higher and the fork blades are spaced further apart.
Both the seatstays and chainstays are widened for increased tire/debris clearance. The chainstays are also lengthened by five millimeters. That’s not really for a longer wheelbase, but instead to accommodate the increased height of wider tires.
Everything else on the bike remains the same: bottom bracket height, fork offset, frame geometry and stack and reach. Even the carbon layup is the same as a stock R3.
Cervélo’s engineers experimented in the past with oversized seat tubes and seatposts, but feedback from Cervélo team riders led them to keep the smaller, more flexible size.
Rinard added that changing too much isn’t necessary, saying, “Keeping everything the same makes sense, because we’ve had great success with the R-series.”